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Millennial Problems: No One Wants to Pay You

I haven’t written at all during the past two days. I’ve been working on Christmas presents; I’ve been doing social things; I’ve been depressed. Whatever — there are always excuses. I don’t need to beat myself up about it, but I do feel disappointed. For the most part I’m not doing paid work right now, making my own projects even more of a priority. Still, it’s hard to maintain the go-go-go pace, you know?

Last night and this morning I comforted my crushed career hopes — being able to support myself as a writer — by reading a bunch of articles about unpaid internships. Basically, unpaid interns are free labor for the companies that “employ” them. Such programs are invariably exploitative. Usually, they are also illegal. And yet the Craigslist ads keep popping up. To see a couple of recent examples, click here and here.

Journalist Sarah Kendzior was interviewed on this topic in 2013. She said, “The American Dream dies hard, because it was not a dream. We saw it work for previous generations. And now we witness its erosion.” Yup. I feel like I’ve been duped! (Hat tip to Miri Mogilevsky, another eloquent critic of unpaid internships.)

First on Twitter and then on her blog, Kendzior outlined the steps of building a “prestige economy”, her term for the system that only rewards people who have the privilege to accrue credentials without being paid. Here are the first points:

“1) Make higher education worthless by redefining ‘skill’ as a specific corporate contribution. Tell young people they have no skills.

2) With ‘skill’ irrelevant, require experience. Make internship sole path to experience. Make internships unpaid, locking out all but rich.”

I’m one of the lucky few who can afford to work for free, because my parents support me. It’s still exasperating. I don’t want to be supported by my parents forever. Neither do I want to work a drudgerous full-time job. The world isn’t organized how I wish it was. Ugh. End rant.

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